In a challenging economic environment, finding a responsible financial planner and money manager is extremely important. Between the volatility of today's market and revelations of Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi schemes duping investors, consumers are more confused than ever about knowing whom they can trust with their money.
A financial planner helps clients manage their money and meet financial goals such as retirement or buying a house. A financial planner is not a stockbroker or an insurance salesman, but instead assesses many financial factors.
Your Better Business Bureau would like to offer some tips on finding financial advisors you can trust.
Get educated. Books and resources, available online, in stores or libraries, can help consumers understand finance and investing. Not only will a little education go a long way in deciphering what financial planners are saying - and potentially helping spot red flags - but it also helps consumers decide if they really need a financial planner in the first place. Go to the British Columbia Securities Commission's education website investright.org to learn more.
Look for letters that matter. Financial planners tack many credentials onto their names - with varying degrees of legitimacy. One important acronym to look for is CFP, which stands for "Certified Financial Planner." A CFP has passed a rigourous exam and is required to pursue continuing education credits. In British Columbia, it is mandatory to be certified. Consumers can check CFP status with Financial Planners Standards Council - fpcscanda.org
Consumers should also check the planner out with BBB at vi.bbb.org to see if they have a history of generating complaints and the nature of those complaints.
If a planner gives out investment advice, he or she must be registered with the BC Securities Commission at bcsc.bc.ca.
Don't be sold by a slick pitch. A CFP is required to put the client's financial needs first, and above his or her own. One sign of a trustworthy financial planner is that he or she doesn't try to sell their clients a dubious new product, investment tool or risky stock. Some financial planners are tied to a brokerage firm and are trying to make money for their company and themselves through commissions.
Another red flag: the planner claims they can guarantee big returns on investments. There is always a risk involved in investing and no honest planner can guarantee results.
Conduct a tough interview. After identifying several potential financial advisors, consumers should set up an appointment to meet each one in person. This is an opportunity to ask important questions about the planner's experience and expertise, and to determine whether the consumer and planner can easily develop a good rapport.
A consumer shouldn't be afraid to ask tough questions including how long the planner has been in the business, their qualifications and licences, their experience with similar clients and if they have been the subjects of any disciplinary actions. Consumers can also ask for references of clients who are in their similar financial position.
Consider the fee structure. Financial planners employ many fee structures. Some charge by the hour or a flat rate. Others earn money through commissions on projects sold - which can create a conflict of interest - or a combination of fees and commissions.
If consumers feel they already have a good handle on their finances, another option is to find a financial planner who is willing to offer expert advice - and a second look - perhaps on an annual basis, at an hourly rate.
For more trustworthy advice from BBB on managing finances, go to vi.bbb.org
JUNE 2009 SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER
JUNE 2009 SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER ISLAND
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